It’s a scam that cuts across continents and mega cities, features shadowy political players, powerful middlemen and a plethora of loose political ends.
As CBI officials in Milan continue to question key middleman Guido Haschke in the `3,600 crore AgustaWestland scam, no Indian scandal has created such a furore since Bofors.
Names of Indian politicians are being bandied about in the court, and swift denials about any possible involvement of Defence Minister A K Antony were issued from Milan.
Piecing together the connections between the main characters involved, their travel details to and from India and phone calls made over the period when the deal was put together, the month-long investigation by Express has revealed a nefarious nexus of government and corporate corruption.
The deal, which was signed on February 8, 2010, was exposed in the Italian media exactly two years later. It claimed the involvement of 11 persons, including AugustaWestland officials, middlemen Haschke and Christian Michel and former Indian Air Force chief S P Tyagi and his family. The deal was terminated on January 1, 2014. Strangely, none of the players have been arrested so far except Haschke who has been nabbed by the Italian police.
Haschke, who allegedly cornered 21 million euros out of the 51 million deal landed in India, along with Orsi Giuseppe, the Chief Executive Officer of AgustaWestland on February 12, 2009.
He took the Lufthansa Flight number 762 from Munich to reach Delhi while Orsi arrived from Paris on Air France Flight number 192.
Investigators believe that the arrival of the CEO and the middleman was significant, coming barely a month after the Contract Negotiation Committee (CNC) of the Defence Ministry concluded its discussions with the AgustaWestland to procure 12 VVIP choppers.
The visit and subsequent communications between the key players reveals a quid pro quo in the murky deal.
Investigators are also looking into Haschke’s visit in February 2008 at a time when the field evaluation trial of AgustaWestland had concluded in the UK. He left for Dubai on February 5, 2008, to allegedly meet fellow mastermind Michel who had by then shifted his base to Dubai from London. Michel, investigators believe, got 30 million euros in kickbacks. Haschke was booked on Emirates flight number 543. Michel continues to be a shadowy figure, little being known about him. The agencies do not even possess a photograph of his.
It is not yet clear how long they stayed in India or who were the people they met, but investigators said Haschke made yet another visit to India before the Cabinet Committee on Security (CCS) approved the proposal on January 18, 2010.